Last year I was lucky enough to meet photographer Ciara Menzies. She had worked with my friend Araminta Campbell and loved the shoot they had worked on together. At the time I was looking for a local photographer who could shoot my “12 Days of Christmas” Instagram campaign. Luckily for me Ciara was up for it and available for the shoot. I try to always choose people I work with who I know can do much better job than I can (I am no photographer after all!) and can enhance any ideas I might have, especially for a photoshoot. Whilst I might have an inspiration or mood board for the shoot I always think the photographers eye and input can hugely augment any project. This was definitely the case working with Ciara. The campaign we shot together was a Christmas flat lay with lots of foliage, dried orange, cinnamon sticks and all things Christmassy (side note, I had such a fun time gathering props for this shoot and I got back into Pinterest which I had forgotten about!). Ciara immediately threw herself into the project, setting up the most gorgeous flat lays and perfecting every little angle of the ornaments or other props. The photos turned out better than I could have imagined and it was also great to get to know her on set. Something tells me I will definitely be working with her again this year! She is seriously passionate about what she does and has worked on some incredible projects, so I really wanted to interview her for the blog so you can all get to know more about this photographer on the rise!
Tell us about yourself?
Me? Well I’m Ciara Menzies, a Scottish photographer, based in Edinburgh who loves visual story telling. Through my stills I seek to capture stories and give space for them to be shared with others. Everyone has something of worth to be heard and shared. I love to capture life as it goes on around me weather it be adventure or the every day grind. My mind is curious so I’m always questioning things especially people and I think this is where my love for people and their stories comes from. Beside from photography, exploring and going on adventures big and small always get me excited. I love doing anything you can make with your hands, from up-cycling to cooking up a wee feast for friends.
Where is home?
Home for me is Loch Tay, in Highland Perthshire. It’s one of those special places where you feel miles away from civilisation but in reality you’re only a few hours from the big cities. I’m from a big family, who are really important to me. The majority of them live there, so it feels even more so like home. Just being in and around nature is soul filling.
How did you discovery photography?
For me I didn’t really discover photography as such. I’ve just always taken pictures. As a kid I always had a disposable camera in hand. Eventually I taught myself to use an SLR. It’s always been a lot of trial and error which at times can be frustrating but can also get some brilliant unexpected results when you experiment.
What inspires you and your work?
My work is inspired by other peoples stories. I’ve always been someone who loves to know about people and what makes them tick. Wider influences for me would be documentaries, both stills projects and film. I’m continually being inspired by a variety of people, the first image I remember sticking in my brain and made me think ‘I want to do what they do’ is a famous shot of an Afghan girl by Steve McCurry. It’s very famous, but the intensity and story behind who she is comes through the frame. McCurry went to find the girl years later and reshoot her which was also an incredible piece of work, I like that sense of continuity and time, not just a snap and run.
Describe a typical work week?
My work week is really varied, from being out and about shooting on location for various clients, to being at home, in my wee office, editing clients work or doing the boring stuff that comes with any job, the joys of emails! It’s a privilege to be able to work for myself but also means I have a lot to do – got lots of plates to spin at once.
You travel a lot for work – what is your favourite place you’ve visited?
I’ve been able to travel a bit with my work and hopefully will get to do more in the future as I love exploring new places. One of my favourite places I went while working was in Southern India, to an ancient city called Hampi. It is a fascinating place with so much history in everything. Although I love travelling around Scotland, a bit biased that way, but I’m always struck by how the landscape can look so different with the changing light and weather of Scotland.
Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?
The nature of my job is that I often have fingers in many different pies. I love the variety of it. At the moment I am working on some year long projects, one based in rural Scotland looking at the variety of jobs that people do. Another project I am working on is looking at a tree from the point its felled to its final creation. I’ve always got ideas I’d love to work on, but it can be hard to find funding for projects.
What kind of cameras do you shoot with?
I shoot with a Canon 5D MkIII and a range of prime lenses although when I’m out and about or on holiday I tend to shoot with film cameras or instant cameras, and yes I still use disposable! I’ve found that when your passion becomes what pays the bills, sometimes it can feel like work on your day off. I don’t want to become dispassionate about photography so that’s why I shoot with nondigital cameras. Plus I love that you can’t really know how its going to turn out till you get the film back, its a kind of magic that echoes back to the disposable camera of my youth!
Above: Triglav, Slovenia by Ciara Menzies.
Favourite hour of the day?
Favourite hour of the day would probably be the two ends of the spectrum, I love the early morning when the light is just coming up but no one else is and you can feel like you own a city. Or that hour before the sun goes down, the light is just soft, refreshing, like life looking through sunglasses, there is a wee tint and glow to the world.
Above: Scotland by Ciara Menzies.
Best pieces of advice you can give aspiring photographers?
Don’t think I am in a place to give advice yet. One thing I would say is don’t get comfortable, it’s easy to stick to what you, what is safe, maybe that’s just me? One thing I’d love to do more of and have found helpful is to learn from others. Photography is a hard industry, people are rightfully precious of their skills and knowledge, but it can be exciting to learn something new from another who is skilled or be challenged in how you work.
What do you love most about living in Edinburgh?
It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, it’s a city of wee communities and villages, with differing vibes. Even though it is the capital and thousands of visitors pass through, you don’t feel like you’re lost admit it all. There is a lot Edinburgh has to offer from historic areas to more modern and urban areas. For a wee country girl, I love that although it’s a city, there is a lot of green about. From most places in the city you can see natural beauty, be it the sea or the hills.
Above: Edinburgh, Scotland by Ciara Menzies.
Favourite cafes or restaurants Edinburgh?
Tough question as there are many top spots all over and new ones popping up here and there. One place I come back to again and again would be BlackBird in Tolcross. Their menu has always got lovely unexpected food combos on it, and the beer garden is lovely out the back for a wee bit of alfresco dining/drinking.
Favourite place in Scotland?
Beside from home, I’ve had only good times in the West Coast of Scotland, such beauty and barrenness at the same time. Every year I make a wee pilgrimage to the Isle of Tiree. Being in, on or around water is where I prefer to be so an island is perfect! This island is known for its surf, I’m more like a beached whale in the water than anything else but just being away ‘from it all’ is so refreshing. I make a point of going off grid for my time there which is so restorative in the crazy techno world we live in. I’ve gone there with family and friends since childhood, so many good memories of the place, no matter the weather.
Above: Tiree,Scotland by Ciara Menzies.
We hoped you enjoyed reading this interview with this lovely lady.
Thank you Ciara!
All images courtesy of : www.ciaramenzies.com
P.s. Here are some of the shots from our flat lay shoot together: